/ 11 November 2011

Corruption in DA’s Midvaal? Odendaal report ‘tip of iceberg’

Corruption In Da's Midvaal? Odendaal Report 'tip Of Iceberg'

Whistle-blowers who tried to lift the lid on the dealings of the Democratic Alliance’s chairperson in the Midvaal Municipality, André Odendaal, have stated that public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report merely hints at the endemic corruption and maladministration.

In the November 8 report titled “It Can’t Be Right: Remedying Self-interest in Midvaal”, Madonsela found evidence of maladministration and irregularities emanating from André Odendaal’s role as the sole attorney for the council, which he has been for about 30 years. She stopped short of making any pronouncements on fraud and corruption because they fell outside her office’s jurisdiction.

According to a media release distributed earlier this month, the Special Investigating Unit has been investigating allegations of ­corruption and mismanagement at the municipality since President Jacob Zuma signed the authorising proclamation on May 22.

Madonsela’s report states that Odendaal Summerton Inc, a legal services company Odendaal ran with a partner, was appointed as municipal attorney for the Midvaal council in 2000.

She could find no proof that the firm’s services were acquired through a competitive bidding system, as required of contracts exceeding one year. Furthermore, there was no evidence to indicate that the council investigated this matter in terms of its oversight responsibilities, as stipulated in the Municipal Structures Act.

Madonsela also found irregularities pertaining to the purchase of repossessed property, inadequate monitoring of funds and donated properties and failure to collect from vendors that were providing services to the council.

Initial DA statements centred on the fact that “the public protector found no evidence of corruption”, which conveniently sidestepped mentioning the ongoing investigation by the Special Investigating Unit.

‘Changed on face value’
A statement by the chairman of the DA’s federal executive, James Selfe, seemed to contradict the public protector’s findings. He claimed that steps had been taken to ensure the competitiveness of the tender process and this was acknowledged by Madonsela.

But closer scrutiny of her report reveals that she found that the process had only changed “on face value”. Continued complaints related to the fact that the municipality reportedly “invested a large amount in the upgrading of the database and electronic system at Odendaal Summerton Inc that were used for data collection. This is perceived as an indication that the municipality intended to continue with the award of the tender to [the firm].”

Former DA councillor Kobus Hoffman, now an ANC member, said he had been a member of the mayoral committee for finance in the municipality for six months before he started noticing irregularities and tried to blow the whistle in 2008.

“Freedom Front Plus councillor Corrie Pypers brought me the documents showing perceived irregularities and he also took it to the speaker, Timothy Nast, who is now the mayor. Pypers was concerned that Odendaal was the sole legal adviser, debt collector and auctioneer for the council.

“I went to the head of department for corporate services and said we should appoint a panel of attorneys. A few weeks after that they sacked me. By November 2008, I had been fired as [a member of the mayoral committee]. I was told my rates and taxes were the issue and they couldn’t protect me any more.

“In January, after compiling documents amounting to 600 pages, I sent them to the public protector and the Law Society,” said Hoffman.

Later that month he approached party leader Helen Zille at the DA’s manifesto launch in Soweto and handed her a copy of the same documents, but nothing came of it, Hoffman said.
Zille said she could not remember being handed the documents per se, but that the party did launch an investigation into the running of the municipality.

John Moodey, the DA’s provincial leader at the time, said Hoffman had not been disciplined because he was blowing the whistle, but because he had not followed party procedure in a number of issues, which he could not recall offhand.

“We told him that if he had any tangible evidence he should present it to the public protector, who was already investigating irregularities anyway. We were not covering up anything, we were merely looking for specifics and he had none.

“The fact that, as a public official, he wasn’t paying his rates and taxes on time warranted summary dismissal anyway. We had always welcomed any investigation and allegations of corruption are yet to be proven.”

Pypers, an FF+ proportional representation councillor, said he had initially blown the whistle in 2005 by writing a letter to then-mayor Marty Wenger complaining about Odendaal’s financial misconduct and maladministration, but was ignored.

“The DA won’t do anything to him, because there are too many people involved in his kingdom. Too many people will get hurt. You cannot be as powerful as he is and not have
people owing you. There are a lot of people who took loans from him, whose properties were owing and were not summoned.

“What’s good for one is good for all. It’s not that way in Midvaal. The Special Investigating Unit report has identified 93 municipal officials who owed the municipality a combined total of R400 000 in rates and taxes.”